Just about everyone feels pain from time to time. When you cut your finger or pull a muscle, pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. Once the injury heals, you stop hurting.
Chronic pain is different. Your body keeps hurting weeks, months, or even years after the injury. Doctors often define chronic pain as any pain that lasts for 3 to 6 months or more.
Chronic pain can have real effects on your day-to-day life and your mental health. But you and your doctor can work together to treat it.
What Makes You Feel Chronic Pain?
The feeling of pain comes from a series of messages that zip through your nervous system. When you hurt yourself, the injury turns on pain sensors in that area. They send a message in the form of an electrical signal, which travels from nerve to nerve until it reaches your brain. Your brain processes the signal and sends out the message that you hurt.
Usually the signal stops when the cause of the pain is resolved — your body repairs the wound on your finger or your torn muscle. But with chronic pain, the nerve signals keep firing even after you’ve healed.
Which Conditions Cause Chronic Pain?
Sometimes chronic pain can begin without any obvious cause. But for many people, it starts after an injury or because of a health condition. Some of the leading causes include:
Past injuries or surgeries
Migraines and other headaches
Fibromyalgia, a condition in which people feel muscle pain throughout their bodies
Chronic pain can range from mild to severe. It can continue day after day or come and go. The pain can feel like:
A dull ache
Sometimes pain is just one of many symptoms, which can also include:
Feeling very tired or wiped out
Not feeling hungry
A lack of energy
The guided exercise below will help you manage chronic pain.